Mount Carmel gravestones in disrepairWritten by David Yonke Editor, ToledoFAVS.com | | David.Yonke@ReligionNews.com
Thomas Szych has many relatives buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery.
“Both parents. Grandparents. Great-grandparents. Uncles. Aunts. Cousins.”
“This my family cemetery.”
Szych is hoping his loved ones’ graves don’t wind up like that of Mary Oess, whose short life began in 1912 and ended in 1914. Her simple gray tombstone, marked with a cross, is lying on its back beside another Oess family grave marker.
Or like that of John Cook, who died at age 35 in 1887. His tombstone is lying flat on its back.
Peter and Emilie Ettl’s dual gravestone is about foot off its plinth, bumped up against that of Maria Eggl. One marble gravestone has been tilted by the thick trunk of a weed growing between the base and the marker.
More than three dozen gravestones are lying on their sides or backs or at odd angles in the rear southeastern corner of Mount Carmel, Toledo’s oldest Catholic cemetery.
‘No respect for the dead’
Szych, 43, who lives in North Toledo just a few minutes from the North Toledo cemetery, finds the disarray disturbing.
“It shows no respect for the dead,” he said. “It makes me sick.”
He said he and his daughter Leslie, 20, visits her grandparents’ graves at Mount Carmel every week, and Szych often brings his 6-year-old son, Kadin, to show him the importance of paying respects to deceased relatives.
It was on a recent visit with his son to the back corner of the cemetery that he came across the chaotic scene. He called the Toledo Catholic Diocese’s Downtown headquarters to report the damage and was told that the diocese doesn’t have the funds to fix the grave markers.
Szych said he could not recall the name of the person he spoke with, but he remembers telling the diocesan official that he does not expect the diocese to fix markers that are broken, only to pick up and put back in place the ones that are supposed to be upright.
He acknowledged that some of the centuries-old gravestones could have broken off from their bases because they became brittle with age. And some of the oldest ones are on the side of a small hill, he said, where gravity and time could have pulled top-heavy markers off their bases.
Someone had taken a stone cross that had snapped off its pedestal base and stood it up against the side of the monument.
“I understand they’re old. Some have been here since the 1800s. But this is just terrible,” Szych said.
It’s clear, he said, that many of the fallen markers were knocked off their pedestals by lawnmowing equipment. He pointed to tire tracks that led directly to some of the fallen tombstones.
“I used to work in lawn care and you can see where a riding lawnmower struck these,” Szych said.
Planning to fix tombstones
Frank Cappiello, a family service adviser at Mount Carmel Cemetery, said he is aware of the problem and that the diocese is planning to fix all of the fallen tombstones.
“They’re going to put them back on the pedestals,” Cappiello said. “They’re certainly going to fix that.”
Cappiello said there is no timetable yet for the repairs.
He blamed vandals, assuming that people scaled the 4-foot chain link fence surrounding the cemetery and knocked over the tombstones.
Located at Lagrange Street and Manhattan Boulevard in Toledo’s Old North End, Mount Carmel has long been the cemetery of choice for Toledo’s Polish Catholics.
One of three Catholic cemeteries in Toledo, Mount Carmel was originally known as St. Mary’s and St. Francis de Sales Cemetery until it was renovated and consecrated as Mount Carmel by Bishop Karl J. Alter in November, 1936.
The contracts that family members sign with Mount Carmel promise perpetual care of the grave sites, Szych said, citing his parents’ burial papers.
But with nearly 40 tombstones lying helter skelter around the grounds of Mt. Carmel, Szych is reconsidering whether it will still be his “family cemetery” in years to come.
“I told my daughter, ‘I don’t want you to bury me here if this is how it’s going to be,’” Szych said.
David Yonke is the editor and community manager of ToledoFAVS.com, a website that provides in-depth, nonsectarian news coverage of religion, faith and spirituality in the Toledo area.